The stress of COVID-19 has many people feeling isolated and/or worried about their health. Smokers might find it hard to quit, and those who have recently stopped might find it easy to slip back into smoking again.

Quitting might feel challenging and even impossible at times, but it is not. Don’t give up trying because you haven’t been successful in the past. Most people make multiple quit attempts before they finally quit smoking for good.

Nicotine is an addictive drug found in tobacco products. When one stops using nicotine, the body goes through withdrawal symptoms. E-cigarettes and JUUL mimic traditional cigarettes, and the user receives high doses of nicotine on demand. Nicotine withdrawal is different for every smoker. Some people have minimal withdrawal symptoms, while others say it feels like a mild case of the flu. Common withdrawal symptoms include cravings, dizziness, tiredness, feeling down, insomnia, irritability, trouble concentrating, restlessness, increased appetite and headaches.

Smoking affects every system in your body. When you quit, your body needs to adjust to not having nicotine, and it can be uncomfortable. It is important to remember these side effects are only temporary and often go away within two weeks. The benefits of being tobacco-free outweigh the withdrawal symptoms.

During times of high stress and anxiety when the urge to smoke strikes, smokers ought to distract themselves by drinking water, practicing deep breathing, going for a walk, chewing gum or doing a hobby until the desire to smoke passes. It will pass within three to seven minutes. The important thing is to distract yourself and do something else with your hands.

Over time, the symptoms and cravings will fade if you stay away from tobacco products. Managing your withdrawal symptoms will help you feel better and get through those tougher moments. One way to be prepared is to use nicotine replacement therapy (NRT). NRT can be helpful for dealing with withdrawal and managing cravings. Using NRT and support doubles your chances of staying quit. If you are interested in trying NRT, talk to your health care provider. NRT can be purchased over the counter at drugstores and online. Many insurances cover NRT. You can receive free nicotine patches, gum or lozenges and through Vermont’s 802QUITS.org or phone support at 1-800-QUIT-NOW.

Choosing to be tobacco-free could be one of the most important decisions you ever make. Quitting smoking or using tobacco products will help you live a longer, healthier life, as well as help protect your family and friends’ health.

This week’s Health Talk was written by Sarah Cosgrove, RCP, CTTS-M, AE-C, from Community Health Improvement at Rutland Regional Medical Center.

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